Excerpts from Reviews of Law, State, and Society in Early Imperial China

The translation of the Zhangjiashan legal texts by Barbieri-Low and Yates will certainly become an indispensable handbook for generations of western scholars of ancient China and an important reference material for any scholar who engages in the study of law and its role in shaping state and society in the early Chinese empires. — Maxim Korolkov, Journal of Chinese History Vol. 1 Special Issue 2 (July  2017)


With Law, State, and Society in Early Imperial China, Anthony J. Barbieri-Low and Robin D. S. Yates have made a signal contribution to the study of early Chinese law and legal practice. This new work combines a complete translation of the early Han legal materials from Zhangjiashan 張家山 tomb no. 247 with an extensive scholarly apparatus and accompanying essays that discuss the texts and what they tell us. Barbieri-Low and Yates’s close engagement with their primary source material and extensive research in secondary sources makes this a work that deserves the attention of all scholars interested in early imperial legal history. — Charles Sanft, Early China 40 (2017) 


This book achieves something that I did not think I would see in my lifetime: a scholarly English translation of the legal texts from the Han-dynasty tomb at Zhangjiashan 張家山. There was a fine German translation of one set of documents from the corpus, the so-called Zouyanshu 奏讞書,  but Anthony J. Barbieri-Low and Robin D. S. Yates have added the much longer Ernian lüling 二年律令, as well as an extensive introductory study (which takes up an entire volume), producing not only a reliable translation of all the legal texts from Zhangjiashan currently available, but also an authoritative overview of early imperial Chinese law. They are to be commended for offering an enormously useful work that will undoubtedly be consulted for decades…. … I place this study at the pinnacle of the field. — Paul Goldin, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 27 no. 2 (2017)

Excerpts from Reviews of Artisans in Early Imperial ChinaTimecover

A sapient guide through not only the bustling, state-regulated markets, but back down the production line to the small private workshops where many of the goods. . . were produced. . . . Barbieri-Low splendidly reanimates [the artisans] lost lives, and gives them due credit for greasing the wheels of China’s first empires.” –Time Magazine, Asia Edition (March 3, 2008)

“The author has taken the reader . . . into the complexities of the often hidden depths of early Chinese society. Barbieri-Low has opened up a whole new field and raised challenging questions . . . [for] many new areas of research.”―Jessica Rawson, Art Bulletin (September 2011)

Artisans in Early Imperial China fills an important gap in the field . . . . Barbieri-Low has produced a solid and insightful work on a topic neglected by scholars in both China and the West.” – Labour/LeTravail (Spring 2009)

“Barbieri-Low’s study provides us with a multifaceted perspective of the lives and working conditions of Han artisans . . . . By providing a bold and grounded interpretation of the lives of artisans, Barbieri-Low has done much to enhance our understanding of the lives of the men who served the elite. More generally, he has illuminated the social and economic dynamics of the early empire.” – American Historical Review (December 2008)

“His thorough and meticulously documented exploration of the milieu in which artisans labored makes a significant contribution that will be useful to all scholars and students of Chinese studies…. …. Barbieri-Low’s book is extremely successful in explicating the social and economic conditions around laborers during China’s early imperial period.” – CAA Reviews (December 17, 2008)

“[Barbieri-Low’s] history of the people in the early workshops, marketplaces, construction sites and foundries who produced art imbues their activity with a vivid sense of contemporary life and times through a combination of solid research and enthusiastic engagement with his subject.” – Orientations (February 2009)

“Featuring a thoroughly scholarly approach with copious notes, a glossary of Chinese characters, and an exhaustive bibliography, this book presents a wonderfully fresh viewpoint; it is a veritable goldmine for students and scholars of Chinese culture. Essential.” –Choice (June 2008) Later named “Outstanding Academic Title” by Choice.

“Barbieri-Low succeeds in demonstrating the effectiveness of adopting a multidisciplinary approach to investigating ancient artisans and their products…. Artisans in Early Imperial China is a major contribution to our understanding of ancient China and to the cross-cultural study of craft production.” – Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies (Vol. 69 no. 2, 2009).

“A fresh and magisterial treatment of an important topic: the organization of crafts and industries during the Early Imperial period of Chinese civilization. It is without question the most important book―length contribution in English to Han social and economic history in a quarter―century.”―Lothar von Falkenhausen, University of California, Los Angeles

“A welcome study of aspects of Chinese history that have evaded the attention of traditional Chinese scholars. The author clarifies the social place of the artisan and the effects that official patronage and legal restrictionss brought to bear on his work. He shows much about the working conditions in which the masterpieces in our museums were fashioned.”―Michael Loewe, University Lecturer Emeritus in Chinese Studies in the Faculty of Oriental Studies at Cambridge

Excerpts from Reviews and Coverage of Recarving China’s Past

“‘Recarving China’s Past,’ organized by Cary Y. Liu, curator of Asian art at the Princeton University Art Museum…is an assiduous, tradition-baiting mapping out of the many hard questions that such a project would have to ask. And those questions ultimately boil down to one: Is the antique monument known as the Wu family shrines a reality, however abraded by time, or a fiction, created and elaborated over centuries? Mr. Liu and several of 40 scholars he worked with – chief among them Michael Nylan from the University of California at Berkeley and Anthony Barbieri-Low from the University of Pittsburgh – wrestle with such issues in the massive catalog. And in effect, the first of the two shows that make up the larger exhibition takes place primarily in its pages.” — Holland Cotter, New York Times, May 4th, 2005.

New Jersey Public Television, State of the Arts episode “Unbroken Thread,” featured a broadcast of my computer reconstruction of the Wu Family Shrines, which was on display at the Princeton University Art Museum.